There's a lot of mythology around this show, the first of which is that it was one of the worst-ever (mostly true) and that the set was played from 4am to 8am (also true - each day went sunset to sunrise) and that there was a charter flight/concert pass available through the Dead (true but pause and imagine that flight!). The festival has been heavily traded (particularly the Dead, Clash & B-52s) but the dates often get mislabeled because the headlining bands all played after midnight (the next day). The Dead played on the 26th AM (through sunrise), the 25th on the schedule. The show varies from average to terrible, but just below average overall - NOT the worst ever, but perhaps the worst show of '82. Though the Dead were never much of a festival band, having to play short, for non-fans, etc., this was just a couple months after the US Festival (one month after the one-off at the Santa Fe dirt track and one month before a NYE run at the Kaiser).
When I got this tape it was erroneously labeled "Reggae Sunsplash". At the time I so badly wanted to go to a Sunsplash and couldn't imagine the thrill of one featuring the Dead, Squeeze (billed as the last show of the iconic East Side Story line-up!), B-52s and "the only band that mattered", thinking it would be full of top weed and cool vibes (alas, a victim of media-cultural bias). I didn't know weed wasn't openly tolerated at the time and that after a few hours of ca-chunka-chunka...ca-chunka chunka...ca-chunka chunka, reggae is boring as shit. This was actually The World Music Festival
and only partially reggae-based because it was a Barry Fey production (of Denver's Feyline) and featured bands he liked and invited, in a project he promised in return for hotel development in the country. Locals had free/cheap tix and non-islanders had to buy a separate pass to wear island-wide since the "Marley Arts Center" was actually a beach-adjacent, gravel-and-boulder field (no shit) with no fencing. Fey had brought both the Clash and the Dead to Red Rocks earlier in the year, getting them to sign-on for this, with the caveat that Bobby & the Midnites also perform. Fey also sold a video tie-in (aired locally) that's never surfaced, other than bits! It was held over Thanksgiving to tap the American vacation market (and not to collide with Sunsplash, held in the summer). Attendance from the USA was strong - even though the concept of a fly-in festival was mostly un-thunk at the time and though only those booking in advance could attend - and the idea was that Fey would continue the festival (there were similar festivals staged but none with the cachet of '82). Tix were pricey at $100 (~$250 today) in an era when shows were $10-15.
The Clash, who were imploding at the time and making last grasps, made the same deal they made with Wozniak (US Festival '83) - to headline the festival. One book says they ultimately let home-hero Tosh be the final act and 2500 made his set best-attended (and that in return he complained that forecasted rains didn't arrive to ruin the Clash set - though they were well-received locally according to Clash bios). But eyewitness accounts (and footage) say Tosh opened the festival, so he must have played twice. (Tosh>B52s>Gladys Knight>Dead the 1st day matches the official schedule, which has the Clash last day, plus Mick Jones says they sat in the audience to watch Knight and the Dead and ate "the local shrooms"). After Knight, the Dead spent 1 & 1/2 hours setting up. Funny that they would go on at 4am, and then, in wee-hour Jamaica, take off at such a wild tempo...
It's well-known that between Radio Clash
, Strummer says, "By the way, if you don't like us, I got the Grateful Dead in the wings and I'm gonna bring 'em on. So you better shape up now". This has caused confusion because the Dead didn't follow the Clash (who played early-morning on the 28th), they followed Gladys Knight two days earlier
(she complained about the napping heads with their tabs awaiting). Was Joe just teasing the crowd? Or was he thinking of Bobby who had played a few slots earlier
? Bobby was knee-deep in his mom-rock Midnites project, in-between their two albums and at the end of their second tour, after Billy Cobham (Miles Davis) had taken the drum seat from the also-great Carmine Appice (Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, etc.) They played another "Man Smart" and a "Book of Rules". BTW - Bobby Cochran was a hot guitarist on those tours and has written an interesting book about his uncle (Eddie Cochran).
The Dead show was avoided by some traders and sought by others as a curio, after being slammed in the Deadhead's Taping Compendium:
"This performance is a pathetic embarrassment...Sugaree, executed with each band member attempting a different tempo, nearly collapses at the end of each solo, and fails to manage more than a few seconds of consecutive continuity throughout...Though they manage to pull themselves together enough to make it through the following two songs with minimal miscues, none come even close to approaching average status...Althea>Let It Grow [concludes] what has to be among the band's poorest sets...the second set is lifeless, without highlights, permeated by a distant and disinterested attitude from the entire ensemble. Samson & Delilah is sterile, and the following Scarlet>Fire is downright boring...each song has far more than its excusable share of timing screwups, flat notes, and hideous vocals. Mercifully the band spares us an encore."
First Set. The problem is the overactive rhythm section playing separately from the rest and way uptempo. Is there a faster Sugaree
(don't judge until you repitch at -2%)? The one time they collude is for Minglewood
("T right here in Montego"). I actually think this is a great version - with the right source/EQ/pitch making the difference! Loser
is also good - a couple flubs, hoarse, but Jer takes a second measure in the solo and just flies. Of course they play Dewimmina
because: Jamaica ("D'jah mak'er?" - "No, she wanted to go"). But it's drummer soup - Billy and Mickey are NOT at the same show as each other OR the front line. The rest trainwrecks.
Second Set. Actually starts average with Samson
("Couldn't believe his mind") but then they can't find each other on Scarlet
. Throwing Stones
trainwrecks hard ("Waltz with the stars, the celestial balls"), they fall apart, and now you have a comparison.
Overall = 1 & 1/2 Stars
New Minglewood Blues - Bobby isn't hot maybe, but Jer is on fire - right in the middle of a bad show. This and a decent Loser and Not Fade Away make it a little better than a one-star show. Barely.
SOURCES: Part of the problem of this show has always been bad sources. All have buzzing but the friedlai is the worst. It runs too fast, has additional surface noise/dropouts, the channels are reversed, yet it has the best image (life is yin-yan!). The Clugston runs slightly slow. The streeter source doesn't have the buzz, and has the dropouts and channel problems fixed. It does, however, run too fast (needs -2% pitch)
. Apparently the other sources are actually the local FM-broadcast but the streeter.21065 is best, once repitched (and until Charlie Miller remasters the show like he did so wonderfully with the streeter source for the Clash sets). If this is a 5-star show (and one of the best shows they ever played), please share your example of a 2 or 3-star show.